BY JIM WELLS
There are lasting images, highlighted by the glow of a warm autumnal sun, of the 2015 thoroughbred meet that wound up Saturday with the 70th day of racing, the most since 1992. It was the kind of spectacular afternoon that gives us an excuse for living here on the northern tundra and explained why 9,180 patrons showed up.
There, in the winner’s circle was veteran rider Leandro Goncalves, answering questions in the moments before he received his trophy as the leading rider at Canterbury Park, in this his first year of racing in Shakopee, his crutches parked nearby after badly spraining his ankle in the second race on the card.
There, too, three consecutive times as matter of fact, was the track’s leading trainer for the second straight year, Robertino Diodoro, first announced as the champion conditioner for 2015, then as the winning trainer in the $40,000-guaranteed HBPA Stakes and then the $75,000-guaranteed Juvenile, in which his winning two-year-old Stormation, owned by Mercedes Stables, nailed down the 2-year-old of the year crown.
And there as well, in black hat and western sportcoat, was trainer Dallas Keen, who accepted the award as leading owner for Midwest Stables, one of his clients.
All in all the season couldn’t have ended any finer, not in view of so many concluding days in years past devastated by cold, wet or both.
Upon accepting his award, Goncalves said it was the best summer he’s ever had. Until the second race, at least.
Goncalves had ridden nearly incident free all summer until his horse broke down past the wire and he bailed off, knowing there were horses behind him that he had to escape. “I landed on the right foot wrong,’’ he said.
Let’s not forget Jorge Carreno while we’re at it. He was after all aboard both winners of the stakes races. “That’s shipping money,’’ he said after the first win.
Stormation, a solid two-year-old son of Stormy Atlantic from Promoted Deputy, was being tested at six furlongs for the first time and showed it at the wire. “He was getting very tired at the end,’’ said Carreno, “but yes he’s a very good two-year-old. Tired or not, still good enough to win by 2 ½ furlongs over Partay with Bushrod another five lengths further back.
One race earlier, Carreno guided Candy Ruby to a convincing 5 ¼ length win over Helooksthepart, a length in front of right Now Richie.
After winning that one, Diodoro headed to the paddock for the big stake of the afternoon. “That’s one. Let’s see if we can get another,’’ he said.
Racing exists in a small world and that was illustrated once more after Goncalves received his trophy. Russ Sampson reminded the rider that he was named on a mount Monday at Churchill Downs that, in view of his injury, he would have to give up, a 2-year-old named Lady Gayle. The filly was bred by Curt Sampson, chairman of Canterbury Park.
Goncalves will leave Canterbury with fond memories. Several others do as well.
Dean Butler, runnerup among the jockeys, had another solid meet. “I think what I’ll remember is doing well, meeting new people and staying safe,’’ he said. In other words another routine year for the routine rider who always does well
The highlight of the season for Stephanie Herb, a relative newcomer to the training business, was winning two races on a single card. “I had never done that before,’’ she explained.
The summer grind has left her exhausted, but she is determined to make the most of an upcoming trip to Kentucky for the sales as a working/holiday that includes plans to see California Chrome. “Maybe pet his nose,’’ she said. Then, it’s off to Arkansas for the meet at Oaklawn Park.
There is no doubt about highlight of the meet for trainer Nevada Liftin and his wife, Veronica, who have a new baby girl, Brooks, born September 4 and at Canterbury Park three days later.
“Don’t be surprised if she asks for a pony when she’s a bit older,’’ someone said of Brooks. Liftin offered a nod of understanding.
She’ll have to share, of course, with her sister, Cooper, who’ll turn 3 on December 4.
The highlight of the meet for the HBPA, said Tom Metzen, is the ongoing smooth relationship enjoyed by horsemen with Canterbury Park. “And that’s all due to the agreement with Mystic Lake,’’ Metzen added.
Paddock analyst Angela Hermann had difficulty picking a single day or race but finally settled on the Fillies Race for Hope card, which she got to call in the absence of Paul Allen.
Israel Hernandez will take this memory with him as he departs Shakopee: He was aboard a nine-year-old gelding named Pastero, who won the last race of the season at 35-1 odds.